By Wendell Barnhouse |
DALLAS - When Mike Tyson was heavyweight champion and turned every opponent into a human punching bag, he uttered this quote that qualifies as one of the great sports statements of all time:
"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face."
Iowa State's plan against Baylor was to control the pace and make 3-pointers on offense while packing a zone around Brittney Griner. The Lady Bears figuratively punched the strategy in the nose.
Baylor became the first school to win three consecutive Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championships, breezing to a 75-47 victory over the second-seeded Cyclones (23-8). The Lady Bears have won 30 consecutive games, 72 of their last 73 and 49 straight games against Big 12 foes.
"Winning never gets old, especially this one," said Griner, who was voted the most outstanding player for the third consecutive season. "I think I speak for the five seniors. We definitely wanted to get this win. We wanted to celebrate this, everybody did. This is our last go-around with the Big 12. ... Meant everything to us."
"These young ladies completed another part of their goal board," said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, whose team is the first in Conference history with three consecutive undisputed titles. "Their goal was to win a Big 12 championship, win a tourney championship, and they've done that."
Iowa State didn't plan on Baylor's All-Americans playing like All-Americans. Brittney Griner had 31 points - making 11 consecutive shots - while point guard Odyssey Sims scored 20 and played second-skin defense on Cyclones' sophomore Nikki Moody. Griner and Sims combined to make 21 of 26 shots - Sims was 4-of-5 from 3-point range.
"You try a lot of different things," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "I think we've all tried a lot of different things and none of them have worked. When Odyssey Sims and Brittney Griner go 21-26, I don't think I don't think the Mavs could have won tonight."
Iowa State hit 3-pointers on two of its first four possessions and its sagging zone defense limited Griner to two baskets - both from offensive rebounds - forced three turnovers and held the Lady Bears to just seven points.
But consecutive 3-pointers by Jordan Madden and Sims loosened up the Iowa State defense and the Baylor defense tightened. An Iowa State offense that had functioned in the previous two games like a Swiss watch was stopped cold.
Iowa State had scoring droughts that lasted 8:09 and 8:10 (the second bridged the end of the first half and into the second). For 14:39 of the first 20 minutes, the Cyclones failed to change the scoreboard.
And with the zone forced to scoot more toward the edges, Griner had the space to operate and she filled it with baskets. After missing her second attempt - which she cleaned up with an offensive put-back - she made her next 11 shots. The streak ended with 12:57 to play and Baylor leading by 35.
Baylor advanced to the championship game by defeating Oklahoma State "only" by eight points. The Lady Bears' dominance has created a standard that sometimes obscures the fact they did in fact win the game. While 24 turnovers helped the Cowgirls' cause, Mulkey was particularly troubled by her team's defense. Iowa State's misfortune was being Baylor's next opponent.
"The turnovers obviously were bad," Mulkey said. "But I thought our defense was worse than the turnovers.So we got in the film room last night, and I think you saw a better defensive effort today, you saw communication, you saw a team where all the players were on the same page at the same time on the floor on the defensive end."
Finding what went right for Iowa State would take a search party. Chelsea Poppens and Hallie Christofferson, both averaging 17 a game over the last five contests, finished with 2 and 5. Neither has scored in double figures against Baylor in their careers.
When the Lady Bears' defense did provide an opening, the Cyclones couldn't convert. Twice in the second half, a switch found the 5-8 Sims guarding the 6-7 Anna Prins in the lane. Sims' teammates, though, were pressuring Moody so much she couldn't make a pass.
Prins scored 20 lead Iowa State and scored 14 consecutive points in the second half. The streak, that ended with a 3-pointer, had an oh-by-the-way quality. Prins' three made it 62-34 with 8:56 remaining.
"They're a great team in every way, shape and form," Fennelly said. "We did everything we could to try and stay in the game, but just couldn't do it. What they did to us tonight they've done to a lot of people over the last two years."
Baylor had a remarkable 40-0 season capped off by last year's national championship. With the Big 12 Championship trophy in hand, the next mission is winning six NCAA Tournament games and a second title.
"I think we're where we need to be, especially with this game," said Griner, who set a championship game record with 14 field goals and scored 80 points in three victories. "If we can play like we played tonight, anything's possible. I think we're on track, just like we were last year."